March 2, 2021

Olawale: Why Borussia Dortmund and Lille target joined Hapoel Ra’anana

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The highly-rated Nigeria striker had been linked with a move to France or Germany, but instead will continue his development in Israel’s Liga Leumit

Tripple 44 Academy boss Samuel Olatunji-Okuku explains why Peter Olawale joined Hapoel Ra’anana despite being linked with Borussia Dortmund, Anderlecht, Lille and Besiktas.

The 18-year-old had been tracked by the quartet, while there was also reported interest from Vitoria de Guimaraes and Fenerbahce following his impressive outing at the 2019 U17 Fifa World Cup in Brazil, where Nigeria failed to soar.

Nevertheless, the attacking sensation picked Israel as the destination to continue his development – a decision that has generated a buzz in the media.

Quizzed by Goal on the motivation behind Olawale’s transfer to Ra’anana, his mentor and manager Olatunji-Okuku claims the restraint caused by the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the choice instead of waiting endlessly, and in futility.

“That was not the initial plan, however, the coronavirus pandemic which caught the world unawares played a key role in Olawale’s move to Israel because a lot of European clubs were very reluctant to sign him without trials,” he tells Goal.

“For those who wanted him without trials, they were not sure if he would be allowed to leave Nigeria any moment soon because the borders and airports were yet to open. They need to access him for a couple of days in terms of fitness and medicals before he could be handed a contract.

“Even the embassies that are open insisted they were not giving out visas to tourists except such individuals who are residents over there or have work permits. That was why my boy could not honour the invitation from Vitoria de Guimaraes and Anderlecht.”

“Hapoel Ra’anana vowed to sign him without trials and having spoken with club president Ilan Katz – who had great plans for him, I was convinced and had to let him join the team,” he continued.

“For us at Tripple 44 Academy, we can’t continue to keep him because we don’t know what would happen tomorrow. What if we keep waiting for lockdowns to be relaxed and the transfer window closes, that could have a negative effect on his career.

“At it stands now, we are very happy that he will have somewhere to play when the 2020-21 season commences. The likes of Yakubu Ayegbeni and Kayode Olanrewaju excelled in Israel, so we are very confident Olawale will come out good from that country.”

Olawale showed signs of what should be expected from him having scored four goals in his first friendly match for Gal Cohen’s team. That alone has driven Olatunji-Okuku’s faith that the 18-year-old will come good.

He added: “Israel is not a bad place to start for an 18-year-old player like him which is vey good for his development and learning process.

“Without sounding boastful, I’m very sure that he will excel at Hapoel Ra’anana if he is given regular playing time.

“He is not that kind of player you give over five games to prove himself. Olawale is very fast, skillful and can be relied on to deliver the goals when all hope seem lost. If he continues with his positive attitude and listens to his coaches, he can always be the best because there is no doubt he is going to have a big future for the future.”

Having been relegated from the Israeli top-flight last term, the former Nigeria U17 star will be relied upon for goals as the club chases a return to the Israeli Premier League.